eff rejection

The Lisa Chronicles book

(Hrm. I can’t seem to get the image to straighten. You get the drift.)

Saturday the paper proof for The Lisa Chronicles Vol 1 showed up and having a solid form of my book in my hand feels awesome.(I borrowed the design heavily from an existing traditional publisher as I liked the simplicity of the style.) There are some minor corrections that need to be done.Even the low resolution pictures (times were different back in the late ’90s) were not as grainy as I would have thought. Overall, I am pretty pleased with how the book turned out.

I’ve got a post brewing on freeing the content but the short version is I’m providing .pdf and .mobi versions of my work for free on this website as well as putting the ebook and print copies for sale at fine retailers such as Amazon and Kobo.

Speaking of books, I sent the manuscript for my first chapbook to my editor and the return wasn’t as bad as I thought. While I’m gungho on doing the printing and such myself, I’m wavering on having it professionally published mainly because of the marketing angle. I can boast on freeing the content and getting my work into as many hands as possible,all I want but I do want to get some kind of token payment for my work.

Publications brings me to rejections.

#

Ray Bradbury is credited with the “write one, submit one” methodology. It’s self-explanatory: You write one piece and you submit a piece every week. (I’ve also seen write one submit one daily but that is some crazy shit.) The more you write, the better you get, and even if you make one sale, it’s enough to keep you going as soon you’ll have two sales and so forth and so on.

Mr. Bradbury goes into more detail below.

Right now I’m ahead of the game: I wrote and submitted ten pieces in February, had one acceptance and three rejections. Even if the other six reject me, I’m still coming out a winner.

But the rejection still hurts. The sting was intensified when two of the rejections came in one day. WHY WON’T THEY UNDERSTAND MY PROWESS WITH WORDS??

Mr. Bradbury continues he went through a similar thing, we all go through a similar thing. You look back at your earlier work and see how terrible it is because it is terrible. You’re a beginner at this game and no one is going to excel coming out of the gate. But you don’t know until you submit and get rejected.

I found this sentiment to be particularly true of a piece, Palmistry for Beginners, I wrote a couple of years ago. A speculative piece, I posited the question of what if we could change our life if we changed the major lines on our palms. If you’re not familiar with palmistry, the idea is the lines on your palms represent different aspects of your life (love, health, wealth, life, etc) and they can also predict the future. I’m not sure if I buy into this wholly BUT I once went to a palm reader who predicted a breakup with a major boyfriend which happened two days later; I would have no kids, and I would get married twice. So far she’s at 90% and as Mr. Lisa and I have talked about getting married again, she’d be 100% correct. Coincidence? Sure, but sometimes there could be bigger things at stake.

I’m asiding here. Back to my short story.

I sent the piece to a speculative fiction site and it got rejected. I revised the story a year later and it too got rejected. I still couldn’t understand why. A year after that, I re-read the piece and it was terrible. Tenses were all over the place, the plot dropped and came back and dropped again. I would reject me.

I started revising again and found the original story needed to be double the length to get the plot fully fleshed out and coherent. This is a story I’m going to have to diagram / comment / note take / and whatever implement I need to use to get it into shape.

This will be the hardest story I’ve written at this point.

In this process, I learned a couple of things about myself:

  • I cannot use my bipolar mania, which I am horribly guilty of doing,  to conflate everything I write as a Pulitzer piece
  • I need to figure out a writing style and stick to it. It’s okay to change direction but that direction depends on the type of work. I’m enamoured of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Bukowski but I write, for now, like some James Joycian and Virginia Woolf bastard step-child. I like clean and succinct writing styles. Getting a sure footing on my voice will make a huge difference instead of changing to ten different voices in the span of a single piece.
  • As some of my work is not a linear introduction, conflict, resolution style, this is not a bad thing. Finding a market for it may be difficult but I need to get into the groove of what makes me feel good as I write. “Write what I want to read” is hammered all over writing blogs.
  • All ideas are good ideas. Even if they seem ridiculous, an idea is better than no idea. Some of my ideas are terrible but that’s okay. I have ideas.
  • Revise. Send it to my editor. Revise again. Rinse, lather, repeat.

A year ago I would have given but rejection gives me hope and forces me to be a better writer and in the end, isn’t what is most important of all?

 

 

chapbooks

I’ve been thinking a lot about putting together a chapbook, a short anthology of poems/fiction/whatever that is usually up to 40 or so pages long though the number is not a hard number. Chapbooks, mainly poetry and constructed in various forms, have been around since roughly the 16th century. As expected with the internet, paper chapbooks are not quite as popular as they once were, tho’ like vinyl they are making a comeback, so, why do one?

The non-blog works of lisarabey.com are, I suppose, chapbooks in their own right if you organise them into groupings which I’ve sorta done. But the online aesthetic isn’t what I’m shooting for as I recently joked to TEH I wanted to have a shelf of my printed work and printed chapbooks would be an excellent way to start to make that happen.

But how and where to publish them? (I’ll get more into the “what” later on.)

I’ve got a couple of options that are open to me: I can find a chapbook publisher and handle it through them or I can do it myself. With the chapbook publishing route, I can get the pieces professionally edited, the book designed, built-in distribution, and some basic publicity being handled. If I go down the route myself, I can either edit the work or hire an editor (thankfully, I know one and she is cheapish), do the design, distribution, and publicity myself.

After doing some research on chapbook publishers, I decided to go down the myself route. I’ve got basic ebook design and publishing down to a science now but I could always learn more and I like the DIY activity of it. In name, at least, I do have my own publishing house, so I can publish under that imprint. The distribution markets will be a tough nut to crack. I can sell them via etsy and check local bookstores and gift shops that could sell my work. Publicity, with prose at least, I’ll find reviewers, do social media, the whole nine yards.

But really, truly honesty between us pals? No one reads archives anymore and there is so much good in those words that not being seen by more eyes is a shame.

I’ve got two projects in mind for the chapbook route. The first is combining downpour on my soul and downpour revisited into a single work. Related pieces, downpour on my soul was published in 1996 and downpour revisited in 1997. The first one an online prose piece in response to dating on the internet in 1995 – 96. It was 47 pages handwritten and clocks in around 6000 words. It is an intense no holds barred look at my love life happening online and off. The piece was written in a manic phase that lasted two days. It was, for a very long time, one of the first pieces that received some minor notoriety. While no personal details are given, I have had men referenced in the piece threaten me with libel. (Obviously, none of it came to pass.) It’s also the piece most people seem to resonate with.

The second piece, downpour revisited, was written in 1997 as a follow-up / response to its predecessor. That one is as intense yet it’s formatted differently. As it was not written during a manic phase, the voice is less rushed, less obnoxious. It does, however, feel a bit forced at times but that could be I re-read the damn thing 90000 times in the last six months.

The second project is collating my pieces from Fucked Up College Kids, the ‘zine I wrote for in 1997 – 98. There are 12 pieces (located here — scroll down and on your right) where I rage, admonish, rant, and piss people off. I was 25 and did not know any better.  While the copyright has reverted back to me years ago, I’ve been in touch with the editor to see if I can use the name when I put that chapbook together. I haven’t heard from him yet.

From there I’d like to start writing chapbook only work and start releasing that as well. I’m pretty excited about this whole endeavour.

I’ll be offering all of my work. chapbooks and books, to download for free in pdf, .mobi, and .epub and you can also buy them as ebooks and print copies for reasonable costs. My reasoning here is I’d rather have more people read my work and be engaged rather than make a few bucks. (Because literally, that is all I would make and in the negatives after you add in the cost of work.)

But more on that later.

new piece in lit.cat

I submitted my piece, first grade crush, this past Sunday morning and received notification that evening it was accepted for the next publication which came out yesterday.

Fastest notice ever.

(Followed up when I applied for a gig a few years ago at Harvard in the evening and received the rejection the following morning. I was crushed it was not sent on parchment via owl.)

The story is based on the fact I named my brother after my first grade crush, which is all true.

Anyway, you should go read it.

(I’m also going to plug and say you should read lit.cat even if they didn’t publish my piece. Their issues are set up for a total of 30 minute reads and they publish twice a month. I’ve been impressed with the quality of writing over there.)

and you get a submission, and you get a submission

I am a BEAST.

Last week Friday, I cranked out a 15 syllable poem for submission to tinywords, a 2K word blog post, and a 3K creative non-fiction essay  I submitted to BuzzFeed. If I still smoked, there would have been a cigarette at the end of the day.


The poem that I submitted to tinywords:
lips cherry red     body sags
hollow breath      she is then released

A 15 syllable poem is a fixed haiku and the layout is as above: two lines, 15 syllables, and double spacing between the breaths.

That shit was hard. You’d think, “Oh, a 15 syllable poem! I can knock that out of the park in a few minutes.” Oh, no no no. There were over half a dozen attempts and about two hours of work into that sucker. (The formatting of the submission page wouldn’t allow for the double spacing between the breaths so each breath is on its own line.)

I’m pretty sure lips cherry red could probably be further tightened, but it is what it is.

See, what else? I submitted another poem, they (we) say, with the theme of “Meditation, Mindfulness, Silence, Stillness, or Solitude”  to a poetry contest. A micro-fiction (50 word) piece was submitted to Fifty Word Stories.

Right now I’m working on a prose/poetry thing, swallowing consonants, and a short story, winter has been cancelled.

Not really part of the submission or writing process, but I updated my 50 word bio to include I don’t fucking live in Brooklyn because I’m really tired of every other writer being from Brooklyn.


Why is this flurry of activity different or more succinctly, why should you believe me now that I’m actually working?

Because instead of making an actual big production about writing shit, I sat down and actually wrote some shit and submitted said shit. (And I am nervous about the submissions, because obviously.)

(Let’s take a look at my submission record: Flurry of submissions in August 2015, one each in August and October 2016 then the flurry of submissions beginning of February 2017.)

So, now you’re going to ask, “But how is this time different?”

Two things: I started writing shit down by hand in a notebook and I started to read literary magazines and blogs with actual interest, not just skimming them over to see what they were looking for.


Back in September, I wrote a piece on using a spreadsheet to manage submissions, using Duotrope and my google alerts to grab submission openings and contests across the internets. I sat down and looked at the themes and then I started reading the actual sites and what inspired me was that I saw so many different pieces of writing being published. It wasn’t straight plot / character / linear pieces. There were prose poems, experimental pieces, and short fragments of micro-flash fiction. And I thought, “I can do this. I can write this.”

they (we) say came about by writing shit down, transferring it to Scivener, and then making the parts connect. The handwritten parts at first glance looked like two separate poems but after transcribing them to digital, I saw the connections and I worked those connections until the pieces fit seamlessly.

lips cherry red was a burst of phrases that I worked and reworked on paper, counting syllables, until it felt just right.

swallowed consonants is coming about from free form writing; winter has been cancelled from the idea of, “Well. What if winter had been cancelled? What would the floral and fauna do?”

I have other pieces that were half written or notes were taken and I now look at them and think, “Okay. I can make you work. Where is my pen and notebook.”

(I’m finding working in pencil has been helpful and easier than my usual erasable pen. Go figure.)

And the final third part: Writing has become that drug I need again and does not feel like work.

Thank fucking god.

cabinet particulier the reboot

In 2012, laid up from ankle surgery, I came up with an idea to while away the time: I’d write a book. The book centers around an American actress living in England who has massive stage fright but continues to get jobs due to her extraordinary beauty. As she gets long in the tooth, a patron gives her a Kodak Brownie as a gift to keep her occupied during her downtime and she discovers she’s brilliant with a camera. After I fleshed out my character a bit, more ideas came forward: Edwardian period, magical realism, fairies, Arthur Conan Doyle, motorbikes, and a murder and you have a fantastic world in the making.

(This doesn’t mean I’ll be using all the things or anything else comes up but hey! having too much is better than not having enough.)

The name of the project is “Cabinet Particulier,” which is a term used for enclosed rooms in restaurants where men would meet their mistresses. The working title seems appropriate for a book based on a failed actress with the Edwardian version of a questionable background.

(You can read the beginning of my research notes over at exitpursuedbyabear.net.)

Months march on and in 2014, TEH and I decide I’m taking a gap year to write my book. Anyone who’s been keeping track of me these last few years know shit didn’t end up turning out that way.

(The story I’m spinning when future employers look at my resume is I took a gap year and the book stalled, which is mostly true.)

It’s almost five years (!) since the original idea smacked into my brain and I’ve decided it’s finally time to give my book the time it is due.

Let’s answer some questions:

What is the Edwardian period: Period of time begins around 1900 and ends at the beginning, mostly, of WWI (1914). The dates are a bit fluid, with dates extended on either direction but is considered the gap period between Victorian age and the Roaring ’20s. Some scholars consider it to be the tail end of the Victorian era while others, like myself, see it as a wholly different period. The period is named for the English king, King Edward VII, who comes into power after his mother, Queen Victoria (the name sake of the Victorian era), dies. In the US, the period is loosely referred to as “The Gilded Age” and in France, “Belle Époque.”

Why the Edwardian period: I knew I wanted the book to be historical fiction and I also knew I wanted the period to be close to contemporary times since there would be more research available (hah!). I tend to gravitate to periods pre-Depression era (1930s) but I wanted something different than your usual molls and gangsters of the 1920s. The turn of the 20th century was huge with big changes: Cars were becoming affordable and popular, same with radios, telephones, and electricity. Cameras and bikes were also coming into their own. People were becoming more literate, printing was cheap, and you saw the rise of mass produced books and magazines.  The attitudes were more relaxed than the perceived stuffiness of the Victorians and lifestyles was more opulent and extravagant. I also wanted it to be pre-sinking of the Titanic (1912).

In short, it was an era where anything and everything could be possible.

Influences: When I began my research, I found women, more so than men, were commercial and artistic photographers, so giving her a new job was easy. Popular travelogues of the era were written by women. There was a spike in the belief in the supernatural — The Victorians loved their ghost stories, seances, and research into the otherworld carried over to the beginning of the century. It became more socially acceptable for a woman to have jobs that would have been unseemly in the Victorian era, namely actresses and models. Thanks to telephones and postcards (yes, really), communication was easier and faster. This is also the rise of the middle class so you’re seeing a lot money spent on vacations, luxuries, and entertainment.

Research: has been sketchy. Finding material that works specifically with that period has been hard. While there seems to be a zillion blogs/websites/books on Victorians and the Roaring ’20s and forward, the Edwardian period seems to be forgotten. Much of the social commentary on WWI tends to lean towards the Roaring ’20s rather than the time before it. Since many scholars and historians consider the period to be late-Victorian, what I have been finding for resources tend to be footnotes in those works. I thought the popularity of Downton Abbey would see a rush of amateur historians coming to the rescue, but no. I’ve been expanding my search terms to find more information –  Art Nouveau is such an example.

Where are we at now: I took a fiction class in the fall of 2015 and workshopped the first chapter and it was well received. I’ve been playing around with characters, theme, and story lines so the basic idea, “failed American actress living in London,” is starting to flesh out. Since I gave away my print books on the topic, I’m starting my research from scratch. There is an accompanying Pinboard, PinterestTumblr sites as well as a RSS feed if you want to follow along. Posts, as always, will be cross-posted over on Facebook. My Scrivener files are still intact.

What’s next: Now that my meds are under control which means my focus is better, I’m going to sketch out a plan of attack. I know I need to do a lot of research and I should also work on note taking of character / plot / scene. I bought a mechanics book on novel writing to help with the basics. (I’ve found celebrated books such as Stephen Kings On Writing are nothing more than expositioned mental masturbation. The first rule of writing is there is no formula for writing. Reading 300 pages of essays from famous authors does nothing for me. That’s great you drank a bottle of gin before you sat down and wrote The Great American Novel™ but not everyone is going to be that type of writer.) I need to read, read, read works of the era and whatever contemporary works on the era I an find.

In short, there is a lot of work to be done.